Irish players to miss Aussie Rules finals as they are advised to return home

Irish AFL players mull returning home amid coronavirus crisis

A number of Irish women are set to miss playing in Australian Football League finals because they must return home, Nicholas Walsh has told BBC Sport.

The former Cavan footballer, now a programme manager with the AFL Coaches Association, was reflecting on the impact of coronavirus on the sport.

Aussie Rules is continuing behind closed doors - one of the few sports in the world still to be playing.

"The women's game has gone into a finals campaign," Walsh explained.

"They had three rounds left but scrapped them and went straight into a finals round, which begins tomorrow and will be played behind closed doors.

"The Government has advised that all non-Australian citizens should return home and have closed the border to non-Australian citizens coming in.

"I know that the two Melbourne Football Club girls from Dublin, Sinead Goldrick and Niamh McEvoy, were on a flight home last night after the club was in contact with the Irish Embassy in Australia.

"Joanne Doonan [a Fermanagh native who plays for Carlton Football Club] is going home today, while other players from Ireland are taking it on a day-by-day basis."

Talking about the AFL continuing to play behind closed doors amidst the coronavirus crisis, Walsh said the country's chief medical officer had a major role to play in the decision.

"The men's and the women's AFL seasons are really the only competitive team sports that are going ahead at the moment," he said.

"The CMO had a big part to play in the AFL's decision to let it go ahead. Australia isn't as bad as Europe at this moment in time in terms of the coronavirus, although it is on the rise.

"TV rights shot through the roof for the first men's game last night. The AFL - like the GAA back home - is such a big thing in Australia.

"AFL is obviously not as big as the English Premier League, American Football or basketball. Eddie McGuire, the president of the Collingwood Football Club, came out and said 'we need these games to go ahead'.

"He said safety is paramount, of course, but essentially that it could cost the Australian Rules over 500 million dollars in losses if games are lost."

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